There has discussion all year about LeBron James’ minutes and whether or not he was playing too many for his own good.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue isn’t among those who think LeBron has played too many minutes. In fact, he thinks stars should be playing more at this time of the season.
"I mean, I don't understand why people make a big deal out of minutes," Lue said at Wednesday at the Cavs’ first full practice since sweeping the Pacers, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. "He had a week off before the series started. We won four straight games, and then he had a week off again. So next [series] he might play 48 minutes."
Lue had a number of other interesting quotes, all per ESPN:
"Of course, we're always cognizant of LeBron's minutes, but in looking at this situation, we didn't look at the minutes as an issue," Lue told ESPN. "It makes more sense to close out the series and have the additional rest versus playing potentially even more minutes, potentially 96-144 more minutes. Closing out and the rest that comes with it far outweighs the other potential scenario."
"It's just part of the playoffs -- how he's feeling, how the games are going," said Lue, who played James the entire second half of Game 3 against the Pacers when Cleveland rallied back from down 26 in the third quarter to win. "But there's no back-to-backs.
"Teams are suffering because they listen to what the media is saying about guys playing minutes."
"Some teams should play some guys more minutes, and it would've been different series," Lue explained without naming names. "So, whatever."
"Bron today just said he feels worse when he doesn't play," Lue said. "Like right now, he said he feels worse, so, we just got to gauge it and see how he feels. Everyone else's minutes were great outside of LeBron. He said he feels great. He didn't really have a defensive assignment. He was able to roam off guys during the series and, so, it was good for him. With him playing the minutes he played during [the] course of the regular season, it has helped him in the playoffs. Now he is able to play those 42, 43 minutes. Because he's used to it. His body can take it, so, I'm not worried about what outside people say."
LeBron, for his part, seems to agree.
"The game plan is from the coaching staff," James said, per ESPN. "Coaches always ask me how I'm feeling throughout the game, and I feel great. If I'm out on the floor and I'm hurting us by playing a lot of minutes, then I need to come out. But in this series, I played a lot of minutes, and I felt great. I actually could have played the whole game if need be."
There’s a lot to unpack here. When it comes to LeBron’s minutes, his per game totals are staggering, but during the regular season his overall minute totals weren’t quite as high. And as more information becomes about player health and the cost of minutes, there’s more scrutiny on LeBron for playing so many minutes. On the other hand, it’s the playoffs and LeBron makes the Cavs a lot better. Lue’s defense of LeBron, and his minutes played, also isn’t too surprising.
But maybe this will look bad once the playoffs have unfolded a bit more and plays three more rounds of possible. It’s possible that, when it comes time for the Cavs to go for another title full force, James will be out of energy ad these comments will won’t stand up to the test of time.
Oe maybe LeBron is just the exception to every rule. That seems possible too.